The Results Are In

When the polling stations opened yesterday morning, there was no shortage of speculation and optimism about who would win Kingston’s Mayoral race, as well as the district contests for councillor, and school board trustee.  Now, I’d be lying to you if I didn’t admit that I was considerably disappointed with the final tally for Mayor, and my district’s school board trustee.  Mark Gerretsen wasn’t my pick for the Limestone City’s top job, but at the end of the day, the majority spoke and the results were overwhelming.  The unofficial results on the City’s website indicated that Gerretsen netted 17,096 votes, or 56 percent of all votes, which was clearly more than the combined total of all of his competitors.

In spite of Gerretsen’s apparent landslide victory, a closer look at the preliminary numbers tell a different tale.  In 2006, 37,696 Kingstonians rocked the vote, however the turnout for the 2010 municipal election presently sits at a disappointing 30,306 voters, which represents a 20 percent reduction.  Keeping in mind the fact that all of yesterday’s totals have yet to be finalized, if the number of eligible voters in 2006 remained the same in 2010, it would mean that only 31% of Kingston’s eligible voters cast a ballot.  In other words, three out of ten eligible Kingstonians bothered to participate.  And what do we have to blame for this poor showing?  Was it the lack of a defining election issue?  The absence of either a lauded or loathed incumbent running for re-election?  Too many starry-eyed hopefuls splitting not enough votes? While we could argue any one of these at length, at the end of the day voters are to blame.

From a convenience point of view, my experience at the polls yesterday could not have gone any smoother.  I showed up at the polling station at Artillery Park, and got slightly lost as I wandered around the block to find the entrance.  I presented my driver’s licence at the door and again to claim my ballot, at which point I was ushered behind the cardboard blind to shade in a few ovals.  All told, I was in and out in about 4 minutes.  Unfortunately, my adventure in democracy was not the norm for many Kingstonians.  Some of my colleagues and friends reported that they waited upwards of 40 minutes, while unlucky souls in Pittsburgh were delayed well over an hour, standing in line past the 9pm deadline due to a ballot mix up.  Needless to say, those in long lines witnessed numerous folks who left due to scheduling conflicts, or general outrage.  I can’t say that I blame them.

Another personal observation from yesterday’s big event was City Hall’s poor online communication plan, both on their website as well as via Twitter.  Like many others, I was constantly refreshing the City’s website to get updates as they became available.  Within 2 minutes of the initial results coming available, the web page became virtually inaccessible, while updates were seemingly provided only if you managed to get through.  The City’s Twitter account appeared to be out of commission during the first half hour after the polls had closed, but this changed when a flood of over two dozen tweets hit the wire.  While somewhat organized, the number of tweets was overwhelming, and they were limited in content. This required followers to comb through dozens of messages to compare results.  An example of the chaos from @cityofkingston‘s twitter feed is as follows:

  • Councillor, Lakeside District : HECTOR, Dorothy – Votes: 1132 (2 of 2 polls reporting)
  • Councillor, Lakeside District : JARDIN, Joan – Votes: 864 (2 of 2 polls reporting)
  • Councillor, Lakeside District : BAIN, Mark – Votes: 829 (2 of 2 polls reporting)
  • Councillor, Lakeside District : CAMERON, Doug – Votes: 646 (2 of 2 polls reporting)

At the end of the day, here’s what we know for sure.  Voter turnout stunk, reaching lows not seen since the 1970’s.  The lines were too long for some, which may help the case for online voting in 2014.  We have another Gerretsen in City Hall, the second youngest Mayor in Kingston’s history, who will do his best to build consensus on key issues such as green jobs, affordable housing and maybe a third crossing.  And last but not least, are the four returning, five new and three old faces coming to the horseshoe at City Hall.  Returning Councillors include:  Rob Hutchison (King’s Town), Dorothy Hector (Lakeside), Bill Glover (Sydenham) and Lisa Osanic (Collins-Bayridge).  Past councillors coming out of retirement include:  Rick Downes (Cataraqui), Kevin George (Loyalist-Cataraqui) and Jim Neill (Williamsville).  Newcomers include:  Sandy Berg (Kingscourt-Strathcona), Brian Reitzel (Pittsburgh), Jeff Scott (Countryside), Liz Schell (Portsmouth) and Bryan Paterson (Trillium).

Thanks and credit for today’s photo to Pat Wallace.

Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

12 thoughts on “The Results Are In

  • I've commented on the turnout elsewhere…

    In terms of the new councillors, Sandy Berg and Liz Schell will be good additions from what I have seen. No idea about the others.

    And BTW, for those of us with a foot in two electoral areas, or who care about the areas next to Kingston, Frontenac Islands sensibly ditched Jim Vandenhoek and elected the much nicer Dennis Doyle, a guy who is open to new ideas and listens, as Mayor. The figures of 744 to 703 show a close election and whilst they might seem like low numbers, in percentage terms, that's something nearer 75% turnout.

    A lesson for Kingston from your rural cousins, perhaps…

    • WOW! 75 percent voter turnout, that's unheard of. I suppose diffusion of social and democratic responsibility dwindles when you get out into the countryside. Goes to show that every vote counts. Doyle won with less than 41 votes. Hardly a majority, but a win's a win.

      • Although I have realised that I estimated the turnout based on year-round residents and that does not include the summer cottagers, who can also vote (and many do). It may be nearer 50% then… but still better than Kingston.

  • You say the majority spoke, but let's not confuse the fact. The majority of the minority who got out and voted spoke. The majority – the very vast majority – opted not to get out at all. The current Mayor-elect enjoys a mandate from what will shake out to be approximately 15% of the overall voting population of Kingston.

    That's 3 in 20. Hardly a resounding mandate by any stretch.

    And as for the notion that there wasn't a driving issue, or a candidate worth to get off the couch for I say: the election is the thing. The election *is* the issue, it's what's worthy of getting off the couch for. We cannot and should not give those voters who chose to not vote an out, a reason for not engaging and not using their voice.

    The election is the thing – and, well, that should be enough.

    • Majority as in majority of votes, not majority of Kingstonians. I clearly acknowledged the poor voter turnout, and at the end of the day, whether it's one or one thousand supporters, a win is a win. Surely it would amazing to see an election where Kingston is properly represented at the polls, but that doesn't look like it's going to happen any time soon. Well, at least for another four years.

  • How can you have both low voter turnout and lines that are too long? It doesn't make sense. I can't imagine the lines had anything to do with the turnout.

    Apathy has been the most frequently cited reason of folks I've spoken with.

    • That's a great question. Poor planning? It seemed as though there was a line at Artillery Park when I was there, but I got to skip it because I was on a magical list. Not sure, didn't ask as I wanted to get in and out as fast as possible.

  • Voted in an advance poll this year, and for those of you with limited time, I would recommend it in future – very quick to get in and out.

    But as for the complaints about delays and long lines on election day, I think that Canadians might want to pause and reflect on how lucky we really are. There are many people in this world who don't have a chance to cast a vote, and many others who travel far and wait long in order to be able to vote. Voting is one of my proudest duties as a Canadian. I especially love to see parents who bring their children to the polls and explain the voting process to them.

    Yes, it would be nice if things were more organized, but keep in mind that elections are infrequent, rules and procedures can change from election to election, and a lot of the people staffing the polling places are new to the task. I was a deputy returning officer in the last municipal election and things went relatively smoothly, but I was learning on the fly. If you think that you would run things more efficiently, you have the opportunity to apply for a position and help out.

    Congrats to our new Mayor and new and returning City Councillors! It's a tough job, but I wish you all the best.

  • The final official update provided by Kingston City Hall indicates that voter turnout was 36.7 percent based on current eligible voters. It's a 5% increase in comparison to what I estimated above, but nonetheless it's pathetic.

  • Am I completely out to lunch here, or is there something curious with these numbers?

    10 30306 mayoral votes, 83594 eligible, turnout 36.7% .

    06 37696 mayoral votes, 95262 eligible, turnout 39.9% .

    03 34607 mayoral votes cast, 83403 eligible, turnout 41.8% .

  • A landlord, an autoshop owner, a call-centre manager, some students, ummm….did I miss anyone?
    I didn’t think the mayoralty pool had what the top job requires; so what if you are in favour of affordable housing, green energy jobs, or whatever…how specifically were any of them qualified to bring these things about?
    I saw a gap between mayor-height and top of the candidates’ heads.

  • Talk to City hall. They will tell you that it is not their job to encourage people to vote. it is just their job to tell people how to vote. They think that it is the candidates responsibility to get people out to vote.
    Backwards thinking…

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